Profile: Shinique Smith (1971-)

Shinique Smith is an American visual artist, known for her colorful installation art and paintings that incorporate found textiles and collage materials. She is based in Brooklyn, New York.

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Early life

Born in 1971, in Baltimore, Maryland, Smith’s artistic training began in childhood, encouraged toward the creative arts by her mother, who is a former fashion designer and magazine editor. Smith was a Visual Arts major at the Baltimore School for the Arts, studying alongside Jada Pinkett Smith, Tupac Shakur, and Josh Charles. She had also studied ballet with Caryl Maxwell, starting at age four.

In high school, Smith was influenced by artists in the Baltimore graffiti scene, an aesthetic also visible in her mature work. Another major influence on her artistic development was her study of Japanese calligraphy in undergraduate school.

After earning her BFA at Maryland Institute College of Art, Smith worked as a costumer and props assistant on motion pictures such as Disclosure, Guarding Tess, Serial Mom, and That Night. From 1995-2000, Smith served on the Advisory Board of 911 Media Arts Center in Seattle, where she launched Seattle’s first festival of African American film and video called Flav’a Fest. Described in the press as “an annual journey through the visions, lives and dreams of media makers of African ancestry,” Smith’s festival hosted films by emerging and established filmmakers such as Cheryl Dunye, Cauleen Smith, Barbara McCullough, Kasi Lemmons, and Charles Burnett (who was honored by Flav’a Fest and the Mayor Norman B. Rice of Seattle at a special screening of Killer of Sheep in 1997).

After working in the film industry, Smith returned to her studies earned a Master of Arts in Education from Tufts University in 2000 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2003. In 2003, Smith moved to New York and participated in The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s artist studio residency, where she began making sculpture.

She often incorporates used clothing and stuffed animals into her two-dimensional and three-dimensional works.“Smith’s kaleidoscopic sculptures and paintings are graceful yet forceful combinations of many different materials and ideas … The works are meant to convey her personal history as well as a greater sense of cultural concern and connectivity”, says Frist Center curator Katie Delmez

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